News and Comments Monday 4 June 2012
• What is balance? • What Qarase wants • What Ghai wants
• Permits? • Lawyer guilty • Ausaid to Tailevu
WHAT IS BALANCE? One reader persists in saying my blog is not balanced, as I claim, but is unbalanced and very pro-Bainimarama. I invite him and all readers to read the “Blog Aims, Publisher" page under the blog title that spells out the philosophy and reasoning behind this blog.
WHAT QARASE WANTS. Former PM Laisenia Qarase says the SDL will be positive and show good faith towards government’s constitutional initiative, but its submission to the Constitution Commission will ask that the 1997 constitution be upheld, and the last elected parliament be reconvened to “make appropriate amendments to the 1997 Constitution, including changes to the electoral system and (holding a) general election under the revised 1997 Constitution.” The SDL is seeking common ground with the FLP, the NFP and the UPP in its Commission submission. Meanwhile, what the “appropriate amendments” and “changes” are, we can only guess.
WHAT GHAI WANTS. Constitutional Commission chair Professor Yash Ghai said the commission will listen to the views of all citizens who want to contribute in the making of the new constitution. He said critics who say the process towards a new constitution is illegal after the abrogation the 1997 Constitution were not facing up to realities. The only way to return to a democratic system is to engage the whole country in a process of dialogue, consultations and finding some consensus. -- Based on FijiLive.
SOME CLARIFICATION ON PERMITS. A police permit has always been required for public meetings. Since 2009, permits have not been issued to some organizations under the Public Order Act. The situation as of now is that NGOs and civil societies, including faith-based organisations, will automatically be granted a one-off permit “to help facilitate and encourage public discussions on the civic education on the Constitutional Consultations.” Why it should be one off is unclear. More than one meeting is needed on so important an issue.
One assumes routine, internal meetings (which, by definition, are not public) will now not require a permit. This is the way the announcement has been interpreted by the Methodist church which in welcoming the move says, it will now be able to hold their Annual General Meeting. I am less certain. What is meant by a one-off move? Routine church meetings were internal, they were never public, but they were not allowed under the Public Emergency Regulations. Can the church and other organizations now hold their routine meetings without the need for a permit, and can other types of meetings other than those concerned with the Constitution process be held, or will they still need a permit? It would be helpful if the police would spell out more precisely which organizations and which types of meeting still require a permit.
The police have also made it clear, unnecessarily so, I thought, that if any such meeting “breaches the provisions and intentions of the Public Order Act by prejudicing peace, compromising public safety and good order, engaging in racial or religious vilification, or undermining or sabotaging the economy or financial integrity of Fiji, will be immediately stopped from holding the meetings and any subsequent meetings.” One would have thought this could be taken as read.
This one-off permit will not apply to political parties or unions which will have to continue to apply each time they wish to hold any meeting.
PROMINENT LAWYER GUILTY. Haroon Ali Shah has been found guilty of seven counts of professional misconduct and two counts of unsatisfactory professional conduct by Independent Legal Services Commissioner, Justice Paul Madigan.
The case is in relation to Shah holding $70,000 in a trust account for an insurance claim payment after an accident and then only paying $50,000 to the client while deducting $20,000 as legal fees.
The other counts relate to Shah failing to ensure that the trust account was not overdrawn and failing to keep displayed accounting records which disclosed at all times the true position regarding all trust money held.
The maximum sentence is the lawyer's name to be struck off the legal practitioners roll. He will be sentenced by the Independent Legal Services Commission on the 22nd of this month.
AUSSIES HELP TAILEVU. Despite the standoff by the Australian government, Aussie aid continues. The Australian High Commission report aid worth $19,000 has been schools and villages in Tailevu to improve sanitation, provide flush toilets, water tanks and upgrade of a District School library. Five villages will no longer have to depend on creek water for cooking, bathing and washing. In addition $3,000 is being spent on a footpath to low-lying Tamavua-i-Wai Settlement close to Queen’s Road on the western Suva boundary.